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Vestax PMC-06 Pro VCA Mixer
Reviewer: Gizmo • Date: January 2008 • Price: £219/€288/$299 • Link: Vestax

Introduction

Vestax PMC 06 Pro VCA review

If ever there was a purely turntablist icon, the super skinny Vestax 06 would be it. Designed with entirely with scratchers in mind, the 06 aimed to make deck gymnastics just that little bit easier by essentially cutting the standard width of a mixer in half and giving DJs the ability to do a whole lot more with their hands, the mixer and the vinyl.

The 06 has been around for ever, so why only just get round to covering it now? Well Vestax decided it was time to finally give it a facelift and bring out a black version that people have been craving for a long time. Indeed, the 06 is one of the most modified mixers around, with all sorts of amazing faceplate designs appearing, as well as some serious homebrew projects (including full MIDI!) adding features missing from the stripped to the bone 06 design. So this is simply an opportunity to fill a gap in the reviews list, as this is nothing more than a cosmetic upgrade.

First Impressions

Vestax PMC 06 Pro VCA review

It’s fair to say that these are slightly clouded with years of internet anecdotes and the apparent poor quality if the early models, largely based to being thrown out of factories in China. The 06 is still made in China but subsequent internal improvements has seen the 06’s quality improve.

Having been used to the previously gold incarnation, the new checkerboard black styling is a much needed breath of fresh air, dispensing with the old now retro style and fulfilling the desires of the masses for a black 06. There was of course the 06 Samurai that was almost black and had the additional digital fader control. Aside from the whole Samurai being a “cheats mixer”, the price was way above what impoverished scratch DJs were willing to pay and the sound quality was suspect.

Vestax PMC 06 Pro VCA review

The 06 screams classic Vestax styling. Everything about it is now very familiar, even with the new coat of paint. Vestax’s quality has certainly moved on from the heady days of 05/06/07 domination and the 06 serves as a testament to where Vestax were. The familiar square fader caps are there, as are the standard closely bunched together EQ controls. However, care has been taken to make sure that the whole layout is as open as possible for turntablists, and is perhaps just a bit too minimal at times from a usability point of view. But then again, this is pure scratch DJ fodder - no concessions have been made for mix DJs who are very well catered for in other sectors of the market.

The Faders

Vestax PMC 06 Pro VCA review

Obviously, the success of a scratch mixer is based around the faders and their controls. The 06 crossfader is a standard PCV as found in the 05 and 07 but has a somewhat flimsy 4mm stem. Thankfully, it’s easily replaceable with a 3rd party fader like a P&G or Pro X Fade. After all, the cross fader on a scratch mixer takes more hammer than any other.

Vestax PMC 06 Pro VCA review

Out of the box the PVC makes a godawful clicky clacky racket in use, but thankfully Vestax have seen fit to include their CLS-1 rubber stoppers. Not only does this stop the noise, but also makes the lag better, which as standard is around 4mm before the fader curve kicks in. From an adjustability viewpoint, the front face of the 06 houses the crossfader reverse and curve controls. In today’s ultra-sharp digital curve market, the 06’s cut-in is still quite sharp, but those who favour real on/off curves should take note.

The line faders feel just the same as the crossfader but this is where compromises have been made. There’s no easy adjustment on the line faders unless you want to pop the lid on the 06 and manually adjust them yourself. The line faders have a 3 way toggle switch which gives you a linear curve and 2 extra dipped curves. But even on the sharpest, you’re not going to be scratching with the line faders. Also the faders can be physically reversed in the body if you want. But this level of faceplate off intervention makes the 06 a very personal mixer, rather than an easily adjusted shared mixer. I’m unusual in that I like my line faders reversed so I’d be a little lost on an unadjusted 06.

Vestax PMC 06 Pro VCA review

The 06 also has line/phono toggle switches which can be rotated should you wish to use them as transform switches, although I'm not sure how long these plastic toggles would last in the hand of a mixer punishing turntablist. And they do have an audible click when engaged as well.

Cueing

Vestax PMC 06 Pro VCA review

DJs need to hear what they’re playing before the crowd does and that’s where cueing comes in. On the 06, one of the biggest omissions has been made - while you can cue each channel and fade between them with a front mounted control, there’s no master cue. Now turntablists aren’t known for wearing headphones so much so perhaps Vestax thought it was OK to leave this feature off, but I can tell you it’s not cool at all. While the 06 is aimed at turntablists, they still want to use their mixer for normal club play and the lack of master cue makes this so hard. But how many of you just like to scratch in your headphones in the comfort of your own bedroom? Most I’d say and the lack of master cueing just sucks. Various mods have popped up on the net from time to time, but apparently the PCB changes so it’s not the same mod for every 06. But you can still cut with the cue fader…

Bizarrely, not only is there a headphone socket at the front but also on the back. I guess an extra output can’t harm, especially for recording to an external source.

EQ

Vestax PMC 06 Pro VCA review

As previously mentioned, the 06 has a small EQ section. 2 band with gain control but like the 05, it’s very cramped. Now without pulling the 06 apart to component level, I can only guess that this is the same component as used on the 05, because there really is no space issue on the 06 to make these so close together. And yes - the scratch DJ is probably less concerned with sound quality than most DJs, but 3 band EQ would have been better. While turntablists tend to take out the bottom end of a channel when scratching, 2 band means eliminating 50% of the sound spectrum. A bass kill button would have helped here.

But here’s a weird thing - while we can’t always expect the individual EQs to kill (although most do), the EQs don’t kill on the 06, but neither do the gains. I suppose the theory of a narrower band of adjustment over a normal control could be used as an excuse, but for a scratch mixer, no kill just doesn’t wash.

The 06 features a couple of meters for the channels located horizontally above each one. Again, like the cueing, there’s no master level either which some might have an issue with.

From a sound point of view, the 06 is still pretty good though. Like I said before, the 06 is designed with scratch functionality in mind rather than giving an audiophile an orgasm and from that viewpoint it does what it needs to.

Ins and Outs

Vestax PMC 06 Pro VCA review

As you might expect, a 6” wide mixer isn’t going to be packed with a heap of inputs and outputs - and it isn’t. It comes with just enough to get you hooked up to outside world - line and phono RCA inputs and 2 x RCA line outs. No balanced XLRs on here, but then again, the market it’s aimed at doesn’t necessarily demand that.

Also note the external power supply. With the lack of space it must only be expected, but be warned that it is a Vestax specific wall wart so when you go out to play, remember to pack it as you can't just pop off to your local electrical retailer and buy another one at the last minute.

Summing up

Vestax PMC 06 Pro VCA review

The 06 is a pure scratch tool at an affordable price but as such is a mixer of compromises. No master cue, no master meter, no handy line fader controls, no mic input and limited on EQ and output - but it still works. The 06 is maximised with turntablism in mind and in this respect works very well. In use I certainly had no real issues scratching, juggling or mixing. But then again, I learned the skills on the crappest old school gear possible and didn’t have the luxury of today’s standard features. But the lack of master cue really REALLY hurts, considering the major market is for bedroom jocks who might not want to piss off their Mum and Dad with too much aaaah over Dirtstyle beats.

I wouldn’t really recommend this as a first mixer for non-scratch DJs, but for those starting out on the road to DMC or indeed those seeking a backup mixer, the PMC-06 Pro VCA is an affordable option.

Ratings

Build Quality - 7.5/10
Showing its age now and having a rep for poor quality, the 06 shows no signs of being rubbish, but I'm just playing safe because it still feels like an old 06.

Sound Quality - 7.5/10
2 Band EQ does limit the flexibility somewhat but for what it is, it’s more than adequate.

Features and Implementation - 7/10
The 06 just feels like a compromise too far for me. Rated purely for scratch DJs, it’s probably fine but if you want to do more than just scratch, you’ll get frustrated by the lack of features.

Value for Money - 7.5/10 (black)8/10 (oldschool)
Now that these are approaching the end of their product lifespan, the price is at a much more affordable level. But paying £60 more for a black face plate might stick in your throat a little.

Bottom Line

For turntablists on a budget, the 06 makes for a capable scratch mixer, except for those wanting to scratch in their headphones. But for everyone else, the compromises will leave you wanting.



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